TOY interview: It feels good to be back

Henry Lewis caught up with Maxim 'Panda' Barron, TOY's bassist, to talk about 'Clear Shot', the influence of Roman Flugel and playing in a skate rink.

Ben Smith

Last updated: 3rd Nov 2016.
Originally published: 1st Nov 2016

Image: TOY

Following the recent release of their third album Clear Shot, TOY have continued to maintain their status as serial shoegazers with a keen ear for sixties psychedelia.

Widely polarising verdicts saw some praise the band for a more immediate approach to the record, with tracks like 'Another Dimension' and 'I'm Still Believing' testifying to that.

Others complimented the segments of blanketed noise, a feature TOY have always excelled in. Overall this mixture has made for a mature sounding third album. This time around the influence of electronic musicians has also meant for sequencers and a wider range of keyboard sounds becoming much more prevalent.

The Brighton five-piece are one of the few English bands who are big enough to be in the limelight but poised enough to shy away from it and not become tainted by its glow. This shows in their music.

It's been over a year and a half since they toured properly, although in the meantime they have played a handful of shows across the country, including a turn at Sheffield one dayer Outlines Festival where they performed at a roller blading rink.

This is all set to change in November when the band embark on a tour across the UK, with dates at King Tuts, Electric Brixton and Livepool's The Magnet pencilled in. Looking ahead, Henry Lewis caught up with TOY's bassist Maxim 'Panda' Barron in the midst of a video shoot.

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Hey man how are you?

I'm good thanks, I'm just with everyone. We're shooting a video.

Cool, tell us about that then?

It's happening in my flat right now. We've kind of just set up a smoke machine. It's very smokey in here but yeah we're shooting for 'Another Dimension' - the next single. It's kind of just us sat in a smokey room, doing different things, having a few beers.

The album came out last Friday, what's the reaction been like so far?

Really great actually man. We've just got back from a show in Bilbao at the weekend and we did a Rough Trade in store when the album came out on Friday. People seem to be really into it. It's good to have a record after not having one out for a couple of years. It feels good to be back.

The Guardian said it's some of the most immediate work you've done, was that intentional?

It's funny when you read these reviews some people say its the most immediate thing and then some people say it's not the most immediate thing. I quite like the way it divides opinion. 

"We're shooting a video in our flat, see you in a bit." I just bumped into one of my mates on the street...

It's kind of funny, it seems to have, not confused people, but I like the way people have a lot of different opinions of what it is that we're trying to do.

It's quite a varied album, we worked with a different producer. We worked with David Wrench and purposely made it so the songs could have space to shine through. We purposefully kept effects and things like that off the tracks and added things afterwards, because that's the sound of the songs when they came out and that's why it sounds the way it does.

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You've been using lots of synth sounds too...

Our keyboard player Alejandra left the band last year and when we went into the studio this year [Panda pauses] "Hi mate can I get some amber leaf three in one please?"

When we went into the studio in Eve in Stockport we had all these synths. We all play each other's instruments and it gave people achance to use different keyboards at different times.

What brought you all the way up to Stockport?

Well it was kind of perpendicular from... not perpendicular but from where David Wrench lives in Wales. So he drove all the way along to get to Stockport and we drove up North to get there. So we kind of met in the middle. I think he had worked there before with Jane Weaver - she uses that studio quite a lot.

We wanted to get out of London because we've always recorded in London. It can be quite distracting being here [laughs] so it was quite nice to go away and get locked up in a weird old house in Stockport with a load of instruments.

With the first two records we'd get to the studio in the morning and commute from our houses and do it all day. With this place we were actually staying there and had more time to do late night sessions.

It's always good to create a certain atmosphere when you're making a record, it does affect what goes down on it like what time you're doing it. If you get up in the morning and you've got to do a lengthy guitar solo it's not going to sound as insane as if it's at midnight. You kind of get more into it when you've had a few more drinks.

It's taken longer to make this record, is that a maturity thing?

Yeah definitely. A lot has happened in that time and I think that's why it took as long as it did. The way we make music is a reflection of our lives and that's how it comes out. It's kind of like the experiences we've shared in those periods of time and it's taken on a different tack because of the stuff that's happened in between - just like anyone who writes from personal experience.

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I read that you're listening to a lot of Roman Flugel, do TOY take in a lot of electronic/dance music?

We're always listening to lots of different music, everything we can possibly lay our hands on. There's some really great modern dance music that has come out recently and I think that when we set out to make the record last year, we started using sequencers and things we'd never used before that get used in dance music.

'Dream Orchestrator' (above) has a sequencer in it, that's what those guys used so yeah it has influenced the record. We thought when we first went in that it would be a bit more electronic than it was, but we're really pleased with the way it turned out. It's nice that it sounded like that. But yeah we love him, he's really good.

Does that mean future TOY records are going to have much more of an electronic element to them?

Yeah it's definitely something we're going to be exploring more in the future. Dom, our guitar player, in the whole time I've known him has made electronic music in some form or other. It's always been one thing we've been really into, so when we make demos at home, like at his house, we'd approach the song as if it was a dance song in the way we arrange them and stuff.

In this record they just came out the way they did, but there's definitely a whole world to explore in that area. So yeah maybe in the future.

Apparently you don't really write that much on the road because you enjoy being wherever you are so much. What have your best experiences been on tour?

We were talking about it the other day; when we got to go to Taiwan, like Taipei and the Far East, that was really cool. Even in England we have a lot of friends in different cities that we have accumulated through touring, so when we do go up to any town we see old friends and have parties so it's fun touring around anywhere.

There's a load of great places, America is always fun. We're hoping to go to South America next year, we've been to Mexico once but we're hoping to do some dates in Buenos Aires and Brazil and places like that.

Will there be any new dynamics to the live show?

We'll be playing pretty much the whole album and we'll also do a few golden oldies [laughs]. We've got our own sound deck with our own sound guy so it's going to sound good and we're gonna have some lights.

It'll be a natural progression from what we've done before. This tour will be a bit of a warm up tour because we haven't done it for a long time and we thought it would be quite cool to play in smaller clubs and venues. We enjoy playing everywhere, but I think it's nice to play in a hot, sweaty room because that's where we enjoy watching stuff.

I saw you guys play earlier this year at Outlines in a skating rink. Do you remember much about that?

Yeah we were a bit like "what is going on here?" Since then it's been nice because it was good to do that, but we were doing little sort of spot gigs. We had our minds in a slightly different place, because we were trying to mix the record.

It hadn't quite been finished and people hadn't heard any music so when you haven't released music in such a long time and then you play an ice rink... It was fun but it's nice that we now we have a record out, people can hear that and we can play it properly on our tour.

Like this? Check out TOY 'Clear Shot' review

TOY play in Liverpool at The Magnet on Thursday 24th November - secure tickets below.

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